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Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egyptby Joyce Tyldesley
"Tyldesley's biography of Cleopatra is engaging, brisk, and reasonably level-headed. This is not the usual story of passion and romance between the dazzling Egyptian queen and ambitious, easily seducible Roman dynasts — whether Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, or any other of her supposed string of international lovers. In fact, according to one creative misreading of Plutarch, adopted by Shakespeare, she had even seduced Julius Caesar's old rival, Pompey the Great, as she later did his son. If true, it would mean that she had been to bed with just about all the key Roman players in the civil wars of the mid-first century BC. Tyldesley's main aim is a more austere one. It is to see Cleopatra in the context not only of Roman power and civil war, but also in the context of Egyptian society and of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty that had ruled the country for almost three hundred years...." Mary Beard, the New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Romans regarded her as fatale monstrum”—a fatal omen. Pascal said the shape of her nose changed the history of the world. Shakespeare portrayed her as an icon of tragic love. But who was Cleopatra, really?
Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Macedonian dynasty of Ptolemies. Highly intelligent, she spoke many languages and was rumored to be the only Ptolemy to read and speak Egyptian. Her famous liaisons with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony had as much to do with politics as the heart. Ruthless in dealing with her enemies, many within her own family, Cleopatra steered her kingdom through difficult times, and very nearly succeeded in creating an eastern empire to rival the growing might of Rome.
Her story was well documented by her near contemporaries, and the tragic tale of contrasts and oppositions—the seductive but failing power of ancient Egypt versus the virile strength of modern Rome—is so familiar we almost feel that we know Cleopatra. But our picture is highly distorted. Cleopatra is often portrayed as a woman ruled by emotion rather than reason; a queen hurtling towards inevitable self-destruction. But these tales of seduction, intrigue, and suicide by asp have obfuscated Cleopatras true political genius.
Stripping away our preconceptions, many of them as old as Egypts Roman conquerors, Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley offers a magnificent biography of a most extraordinary queen.
"This entertaining biography hits the elusive sweet spot between scholarship and readability. British archeologist Tyldesley (Daughters of Isis) is charmingly transparent about the unreliability of her sources. She tells us that when the Roman poet Lucan describes Cleopatra's 'ineffable night of shame' with Julius Caesar, he is 'writing the equivalent of modern tabloid journalism.' In spite of the lack of eyewitness descriptions of Cleopatra, the question, for instance, of what she looked like becomes a fast-moving amusing discussion of statuary as royal propaganda, the modern perception of Cleopatra's nose as way too big and the difference between beauty and sexiness. Writing with an easy mastery of her subject, Tyldesley always seems to be able to lay her hands on the perfect lively detail, whether an excerpt from an obscure bureaucratic document or a description of a kind of giant robot that paraded through the streets of Alexandria pouring libations of milk from a gold bottle. Though she makes it clear we'll never know what Cleopatra was 'really' like, Tyldesley provides a memorable journey through the rich and contradictory sources of our knowledge about her. 8 pages of illus., 3 maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Incorporating "more of the archaeological and historical detective work that underpins Cleopatra's story than is typical in a biography," Tyldesley (Egyptology, Manchester U., UK) presents a fascinating account of Egypt's last queen. In the process, she demonstrates that through her ambition, intelligence, effective --at times ruthless--leadership and ability to set realistic goals, Cleopatra nearly succeeded in creating a dynasty that would have reestablished Egypt as a world power. Illustrated with 26 b&w photographs and three maps. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A vivid biography of the ancient worlds most famous queen.
About the Author
Joyce Tyldesley, Ph.D., holds a first class honors degree in archaeology from Liverpool University and a doctorate from Oxford University. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University, and a tutor at Manchester University. She has acted as consultant on several television projects, and is an experienced broadcaster. Her previous books include a sequence of popular biographies of Egyptian pharaohs, with particular emphasis on the lives of prominent Egyptian women. She lives in Bolton, England.
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